Writing for people in the field

While having a research blog lets me feel like I am putting my ideas out into the world, taking something I have written directly to the people that writing is about and asking what they think in person is proving to be a good method.

When I was trying to explain to a fellow student where I am up to when it comes to my ‘time line’, and why my project still has me talking with people, she seemed a little worried. However, she decided what I was doing is ‘data validation’ and any suggestion of concern evaporated as she declared that it was a good thing.

The couple of times I have taken along a short piece of writing to the group it is about I have found a moment during their coffee break to read it out rather than leaving them a copy to read when they have time. While they seem a bit confused by the interruption at first, and then a little unnerved by hearing something that is quite clearly about them, it is a great way for me to spot some of my own knowledge gaps and get errors in my understanding corrected. I try to include some of the complexities that are a part of even the most well intentioned community group, although the pieces do take on a positive tone because I find the more time I spend with a group the more I like them.

The group members seem to grow more comfortable with being the subject of a piece of writing, and start spotting and telling me things about their group that they think are worth including. Perhaps they also start to censure things that they think I should not write about, but that is their right after all and I am trying to get an understanding of what group members see as important for the functioning of their group. I am not there to write an expose.

My greatest reservation is that so far I have only presented groups with very descriptive accounts. While these accounts do try to highlight the contradictions and in them I connect the group with the wider political economy, I wonder whether the group would be so enthusiastic when the piece is cut up and used to illustrate arguments about the nature of their social world.


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